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Lotus Europa Special Type 74-1974
Lotus Cars, founded by the late Colin Chapman, was a racing car manufacturer that also built road cars, such as the Elan and Elite. Chapman was the engineer, and a group of committed staff made his ideas come to life. Names like Costin and Duckworth (who later joined forces as Cosworth) worked at Lotus during the ’60s and ’70s.
The Type 74, or SIII Europa seen here, was originally designed by South African-native Dan Hickman, who had already designed the Elan, the Lotus-Cortina, and, later, the Black and Decker Workmate! The original concept was for a Ford racing car to compete at LeMans, but the design lost out to the GT-40. The Europa, as did most Lotuses of the period, embodied Chapman’s mantra: “Simplify, then add lightness.” The sheet-metal backbone frame and fiberglass body were serviceable and very light, but not particularly robust. Paired with a series of increasingly powerful engines (85 bhp Renault engines in SI and SII cars) over its production, the Europa was hailed by road testers as “the nearest thing to a Formula One car for the road.” Road & Track’s 1973 road test claimed it was the best handling non-Ferrari road car they’d ever tested.
The earlier Series 1 cars had much higher rear sails, which led to the nickname “breadvan”. It was very primitive, with a body bonded to the frame, fixed windows, and few creature comforts. The Series 2 was close behind, and addressed most of these issues. The Series 3, or Type 74, introduced the twin-cam engine, and its fitting nickname was “Twink”. All official imports into the US were Twin-Cam Specials, giving us the best of the breed. The first 100 big-valve Twin-Cam Specials were painted black with gold pinstripes, and had dash badges denoting the car a John Player Special, honoring recent Formula One World Championships. Other than the dealer-applied dash plaque and special paint, there were no other differences to the ‘regular’ Specials.
Manufacturer: Lotus Cars
Country of Origin: Great Britain
Drivetrain Configuration: Mid-engine, rear wheel drive
Engine: Lotus-Ford, DOHC, 1557cc four-cylinder, 126 bhp
Transmission: 5 speed manual
Top Speed: 123 mph
Years of Production: All Europas – 1966-1975
Number Produced: 9887 total; 4257 Type 74
Original Cost: $7019